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Friday, May 31, 2013

It’s Raining It’s Pouring: Rainy Season Resumes


If only our boat was as close as these in the marina, where
you could just walk aboard.  Ours was a dinghy ride away. 
They say into each life a little rain must fall.

In Biminini, our last stop in the Bahamas before heading back to the US, it rained A LOT. 

It didn’t help that we left our center hatch and companionway hatch open for some time before Wayne dinghied back to our boat and began mopping up.  Our dinghy easily was 6 inches deep with rainwater as the day progressed.



How much did it rain?  The pictures tell the tale….
We sought patches of shelter while the rain sluiced down.


These guys were jackhammering holes
into the pavement for drainage.




It stopped. We ventured a go at drying some of our drenched clothes.
Dark&Stormy seemed an appropriate drink,
non-alcoholic ginger beer and rum.







Note:  We are currently in Fort Lauderdale Florida, job hunting to replenish our cruising kitty.  This is a retrospective.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Delightful Dewey & Fabulous Flamingo (Spanish Virgins)


Culebra and Viquez (@ right) relative to
Puerto Rico.   Culebrita is smaller, not
visibile in this scale, next to Culebrita.
In case there was any doubt, Dewey and Flamingo are places, not people, in the not that well-known out islands of Puerto Rico, “marketed” as “The Spanish Virgins.  Dewey is a town, Flamingo a bay and beach; both are on the island of Culebra.  Culebra’s a little over 50 miles from San Juan, the capitol city of the big island and US territory of Puerto Rico.

Dewey appears to be a local’s playground.  The bulk of visitors come by ferry from Puerto Rico for a quaint, small-town experience, and maybe a hop over to family-friendly, long, broad Flamingo Beach.

We appreciated Dewey’s Visitor Center, where we got great maps of all three Spanish Virgin Islands and of Puerto Rico.  Refreshingly, the Visitor Center representative not only easily answered our questions about the local bus, she didn’t try to “sell” us anything. She strongly suggested checking out Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Puerto Rico’s national rainforest park (we did – watch for it in an upcoming post) based on our interests.
  One of many charming murals around Culebra;this one was in Dewey. 

Dotted with restaurants, vibrant murals and colorful architecture, it was a pleasure to wander Dewey.  We were equally thrilled that even the little market’s prices (there are no big markets) were in most cases even more reasonable than St. Thomas. 

We ovenighted in Dewey, then sailed around the island to anchor in Flamingo Bay, reveling in its crystal clear water and powdery white soft sand beaches.  We were intrigued by two colorfully painted army tanks, one near and one nearly in the water (watch for an upcoming post on that)!


If this unliftable lift bridge went through, the sail between
Dewey and Flamingo would’ve been very short.
We eyed and sniffed but didn’t indulge in the goodies, both native and mainstream Americana at the boardwalk-like food kiosks.  We did buy and appreciately down a cold soda, when we asked directions for a forest reserve. We found out we didn’t miss reserve, it was off limits, fenced off.

After our long walk, I took a dip to check out the lie of our anchor chain.  It was more twisted than Presidential pre-election accusations.  Wayne straighted it out, re-orienting our boat with our dinghy.  Watching, I was startled by three stingrays skimming the ocean floor next to our anchor, but not too startled to snorkel over to the nearby reef to check out the coral and other sea life.
Beautiful Famingo Beach, Culebra

As the day died down, Flamingos Beachgoers drifted away.  Once again, as with sister island Ilsa Culebrita (click here to read about that) we had an anchorage to ourselves.  We took in the starry night sky, and howled at a magnificently near-full moon. We had no worries about disturbing the neighbors.
The wilderness area was a little too wild;
it was off limits.
Moderately priced options at the food kiosk boardwalk
by Flamingo Beach, Culebra.
I was pleased to see recycling bins at Flamingo Beach, Culebra.
We hadn’t seen them since the French Territory Islands
(St. Martin, St Barts, Guadeloupe).

Our anchorage at Culebra’s Flamingo Beach.
Rolly, but we decided, worth it.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

What You Don’t See


A small sampling of St. Lucia's fresh fruit -- bounty of the
Windward Isles.  As we moved NW the options
dwindled dramatically.
Whenever NPR’s “Splendid Table” host Lynne Rosetto Kasper took a caller from Portland, she gushed, “Oh… Portland is such a great food town!” Indeed living in Pacific NW was a veritable cornicopia of farmer’s markets and community-sponsored agriculture.

I still didn’t realize how spoiled we are in the United States overall when it comes to fresh produce. 

The dazzling array of produce and fresh fish in St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica and Guadaloupe’s huge open-air markets reinforced my false perception that local produce was bountiful throughout the Caribbean. 
The produce aisle at Mattew Town Great Inagua general store.
Nothing “fresh.”

The day before VAT took effect in St. Lucia (click read here to learn about VAT), the produce shelves were wiped bare.  St. Lucians didn’t realize most produce prices would be unaffected by VAT, but they didn’t want to take any chances.  With all the other options for produce in St. Lucia, I didn’t pay much attention.

Then, hurricane Sandy hit.  We were thousands of miles away in the Virgin Islands, but we were impacted.  Our weather wasn’t much affected, but Sandy stopped the flow of produce distribution.  Its impact in the Caribbean was staggering. Broad supermarket produce aisle shelves were largely empty.  Even long-storage veggies like onions and potatoes were bruised and mushy.

The produce compartment of our fridge – empty -- two weeks
after our last fresh produce purchase in Puerto Rico.
In Matthew Town, Great Inagua, we noticed our dinner out came with fresh salad, but the other side was canned peas.  Looking to restock our depleted fresh veggies, I stopped in Matthew Town’s general store the next day and found only onions, potatoes and a few bruised, wrinked bell peppers.  “This week’s produce shipment didn’t make it in,” explained the checker, when asked.  I realized how precious that simple iceberg salad that came with our dinner probably was.

When I started this trip, my intent was to eat more like a local.  I just didn’t expect to give up fresh produce as much as I have in the Caribbean, especially in the Bahamas.

Thank goodness for cabbage, onions and to a lesser degree, carrots, for their long shelf lives.

No-mayo Asian cabbage slaw is definitely a mainstay for us, along with canned veg. This time, when provisioning, we packed our small freezer with meat (chicken, pork, beef).  Next time out, I will insist on saving some space for frozen veg unless we’re sure fresh veg is available.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Another “Pinch Me!” Place – Spanish Virgins

Wayne sullies this empty Spanish Virgin beach,
gazing up at Isla Culebrita’s lighthouse.
“Where are you hiding?” texted Keith from Kookaburra, our Ruyter Bay (also known as Elephant Bay) neighbor for over a month.

We were tempted once we finally got moving again (click here and here to read about our 34-day delay) to spend one night just around the bend in beautiful Honeymoon Bay (blogged about it 5 times!  click here for 1st post, here for 2nd post, here for 3rd post here for 4th post and here for 5th post), where our other friends Michael and Colleen from Goldilocks anchored (click here for more about Michael and Colleen).
Best looking boat at Isla
Culebrita beach, because…

But the Bahamas were calling our name, and time was ticking swiftly along.  May 16th we needed to be nearly 1,000 miles North, to meet Wayne’s folks in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. 

Before talking with cruisers in St. Martin, we’d never heard of “The Spanish Virgins,” which are not chaste women but three Puerto Rican outlying islands.  At 17 nautical miles from Elephant Bay, St. Thomas, they were an easy sail – the perfect ticket for us to get back in the swing of sailing and give Journey a gentle shakeout before tackling longer passages ahead. 
It’s the ONLY boat anchored at this Spanish Virgin gem of a beach.

Most appealing?  After months of neighbors but a few hundred yards away, Isla Culebrita offered one of those amazing experiences where spectacular scenery and solitute collide.  While we love making new friends and dabbling with different cultures, this oneness with our surroundings is what cruising is ultimately all about for us.

We tucked in behind the protective arm of Culebrita’s reef. We were the only boat amidst the arc of a perfect white crescent beach that afternoon and night.  It stayed that way right until ½ hour before we left, mid-day the next day.
Easy hiking trail to Culebrita’s lighthouse.

In between, we slipped into glassy turquoise water, frolicked on the beach, hiked up to the lighthouse (more on the lighthouse in a future post) and over to the bubbling “Jacuzzies” on the other side of the island.

We’re glad we didn’t delay, even a day, to bliss out in Culebrita.  That’s what we told Keith, when we called him back, surprised that there was phone coverage in our secret Caribbean hideaway.
Not warm, but bubby; Isla Culebrita’s ocean side “Jacuzzis.”



Note: This is a slight retrospective, filling in for a couple weeks without much internet.  We’re now in the United States seeking employment to replenish our cruising kitty over hurricane season.

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Perfect end to a perfect day at Isla Culebrita.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hungry Sharks & Ravenous Rays



These nurse sharks looked comfortable snuggling up
for food like puppies at mama’s teat.
Got your attention, huh?  Mine, too!  I was only a few feet away… by choice.  Ummm Mom, nurse sharks  are, according to National Geographic, “for the most part, harmless to humans” (click here to learn more about nurse sharks) and I kept my distance from the rays.

The fisherman at Staniel Cay like to toss their scaps out into the shallow marina waters, luring in the local watery denizens.  Missing was the fanfare around feeding at Saba Rock’s tarpon “show” (click here for that blog), but seeing 25 or so nurse sharks and a half dozen charcoal-colored rays, all taller or wider than I am is dramatic enough.  

This and another ray at the “feed” both lost their tail.
The other rays full tail and stingers were still intact.

Thunderball Grotto, where “Splash”, “Never Say Never” and, of course “Thunderball” were filmed is Staniel Cay’s  real draw (other than neighboring Major Cay’s friendly swimming pigs – watch for a future post on that). We dinghied over to and snorkeled at Thunderball Grotto, an exquisite natural catherdral-ceilinged fishbowl.  Light rays filter from the cavern openings deep into the water below.  Do the tourists come to see the fish?  Or do the fish come to see the tourists?  In any case, both are there in abundance. 

We could tell the “free food” bonanza outside Staniel Cay marina
was old hat but welcome easy pickins for the sharks and the rays.

If only my “water” camera WORKED as a WATER camera!  Instead at the hint of too much moisture, it periodically fogs, even though it’s spec’d to work in 15 feet of water. 

If you look closely, you can see the remoras, “cleaner fish”
on two of these three sharks.
That just means we’ll have to come back again someday, with a water camera that actually works like a water camera!

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From dramatic to just plain pretty -- another view
from Staniel Cay mar

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mofongo: Food Love, Puerto Rican Style


Inside, all the beach cafes were similar, every one had
some kind of coinop kidde ride.

“You must try the mofongo, at one of the beach stands” our Old San Juan Puerto Rico City Hot Dogs server insisted.  She sighed deeply as she said it, her face glowed and her eyes looked heavenward, fondly reminiscing.

We rented a car (cheap in Puerto Rico! Decent roads and drivers, too.) to explore Puerto Rico’s lovely coastline and visit their national rainforest park El Yunque (more on that in a future post), all the while, I was on the lookout for beach kiosks selling mofongo.
Also standard:  pool table on the “back” beach side.

Wayne indulged my desire to try a mofongo. On the way back to San Juan, in Liquillio, we stopped at some beach kiosks.

It would be an understatement to call mofongo (click here to learn more about what mofongo is) a diet food, unless of course, you’re on a weight gain diet (which unintentially it seems I am a bit!).  It’s the connsumate comfort food, dense, savory, and bursting with fatty-starchy goodness from mashed, fried plantains, olive oil, garlic, pork fat.

The closest I can come to describing its texture and flavor would be a tamale with pork fat seasoning covered with a cross between a mild enchilada sauce and chicken soup broth and in my case, shrimp on the side.  Hmmm… that sounds kind of awful and mofongo is a heavenly dish! Maybe Sanford and Son character Lamont’s description, "a dish of some stuff that was terrific", is enough to convice you to try it yourself. 
Mofongo with camaronnes (shrimp) at a stand in Loquillo
Puerto Rico.  Prices were not posted, but it was between $12-18.

I washed my mofongo down with vivid organge-tangerine colored cranberry-passionfruit adult fruit shake.  Yum.

I’m not sure I want to learn how to make mofongo; it would be far too dangerous to my wardrobe as I just don’t want to buy the next size or two up.

Nevertheless, click here fora recipe.

Passoa, on the other hand, seems less dangerous, especially since I’m unlikely to find it unless I go back to Puerto Rico.  Pueblo sold it for $18 and I suspect I can find it for less elsewhere. It’s on my “next time” list to buy.
Passoa, a passion fruit liqueur was one of the ingredients
in an intensely fruity drink. 

The cafĂ© was however a reminder for us to avoid places that don’t post prices, or, asking before deciding it we do.  I suspect there were two sets of prices, the one locals pay, and the one we paid.  Ours was, I’m sure, higher.

Still, $27 or so isn’t too terrible for a beer, two mixed drinks and the best literal taste I’ll have of Puerto Rico for a long, long time.

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Arroyo, another classic Puerto Rican dish. Didn’t try it.
Too much great food, too little time!  
Refreshing with fruit flavors that nearly
explode in your mouth.  Believe it had
Passoa, cranberry juice and rum. A
spendy $6, but I couldn’t resist second

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Neato Ned Additions to Our Home Sweet Home


When up, this mirror’s positioned perfectly to
monitor the cabin’s control panel switches from
the cockpit, a happy accident.

When we met with former Journey owners, Ned and Cath (click here for more about that), one of the biggest surprises was how many cool pullout conveniences that we thought were a Pearson trim kit, were Ned’s additions.  All are built in beautifully finished cherry.  Ned’s great woodworker, with even better sensibility on how to make a boat more livable.  His much welcome additions include:
  •       Framed mirror with extra canned good storage inside that converts to a dining drop-down table.
  •       Fiddled foldout tv-tray-like pop-up table with 2 cup holders; great for holding smaller laptops.
  •     Bookcase with sliders, alternating between easy access and secure holding of the bookcase’s contents.
  •      Companionway hatch board case integrated uner the nav table, with Journey’s name embedded on the case cover.
  •     “Surprise!”  Look for an article in September 2013’s Cruising World for more about that (link forthcoming upon publication).

Thanks, Ned!
When open, this cabinet creates an interior dining
spot while also providing additional food storage.
The table is opens to a wider position, for
bigger meals or for more than a cosy spot for two.


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Eating, drinking or using his laptop, this is Wayne’s
favorite spot in Journey’s cabin, thanks to Ned’s handiwork.

When not in use; this table hinges flat against the
fridge back / settee side wall.  Note Wayne
added a 12-volt DC outlet next to it for more
efficient PC power use.



Storage under companionway ladder; closes
securely when not needed.

Storage under companionway ladder, open;
a convenient place for dishes.


The bookcase is to the right of where the
main mast comes through the cabin.
It’s a great place for storing watches
and necklaces, as well as my  favorite
cookbook, “Moosewood Restaurant
New Classics.”
The bookcase is to the left of the
pop-down dining table.

Just a few feet away from where they’re needed, Ned built
this nifty companion hatch board case tucked under the
nav table and out of the way.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Your 2 Cent’s Worth?


Would you kindly take a few moments to share some much appreciated feedback and info with Galley Wench Tales?  There’s just 12 questions, mostly multiple choice.

Click here to get to the survey (it’s the same one labeled “Your Feedback?” on the upper right hand corner of my website).

Thank you!
Dana Greyson aka “Galley Wench Tales”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Swimming Pigs Attacked by Seagulls


Pigs swimming toward our dinghy at Major Cay.

“Maybe we should have a pig roast on Major Cay beach, and invite all the cruisers,” Wayne suggested.  He was joking… I think.  We were sorry we missed out on the legendary “lechon” roadside stands selling succulent roasted pig in Puerto Rico.

Major Cay’s famous for its aquatic porkers.  Clever of those wily Bahmian ranchers to draw in tourists and get their pig herd fed for free! 

To my vegetarian friends and fellow pig lovers…. In truth I can neither confirm nor deny whether anyone ever eats the swimming pigs of Major Cay.
Wayyy closer than I’d like to our dinghy. They’re
overly friendly, weigh ~400 lbs. each and
reportedly sport sharp hooves.
  

Savvy seagulls knew it was feeding time, too!
The birds descend; shades of Hitchcok’s “The Birds.”
Truth is stranger than fiction.

Snarfing “Cherry Garcia” pancakes.  We sped away!

 
Apparently eating is not the only thing these birds do with gusto.
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